'Idol' host Ryan Seacrest: Joanna Pacitti disqualified due to 'link'
By John Bracchitta, 02/13/2009
Fox is still officially remaining silent about why Joanna Pacitti was disqualified from Top 36 of American Idol's eighth season, however Idol host Ryan Seacrest has confirmed that recent allegations that she has previous relationships with two executives at one of the show's production companies was the apparent cause.
"The producers do the background checks right around [the] Hollywood [Week round]. When they see something that stands out, they have to address it," Seacrest told Fox News while attending the Thursday night opening of the new American Idol Experience attraction at Walt Disney World.
"And they saw something, and there was apparently some sort of a link that, somewhere along the line, could be construed as one that's close to the competition, and they didn't want to risk it," he added.
So far, Fox has not released any additional formal statement about Pacitti's dismissal beyond an initial late Wednesday night statement in which it announced she had been determined to be "ineligible to continue in the competition."
The statement was released minutes after the conclusion of the West Coast broadcast of Wednesday night's "Final Judgement" episode in which Idol's judges were shown informing Pacitti that she had made the eighth season's Top 36 semifinals.
However, given the timing for the announcement and the fact that both Fox and American Idol''s producers were already aware of Pacitti's prior professional experience when the "Final Judgement" episode was filmed last month (and had even acknowledged it on the show's broadcast), speculation immediately focused on last week's Star magazine report that the singer has "connections" to two executives at 19 Entertainment, which is run by Idol creator Simon Fuller and produces the show with FremantleMedia North America.
According to the Star report, Pacitti has "very personal connections" to Michelle Young and Roger Widynowski, two executives that work in 19 Entertainment's Los Angeles office. In addition to living in the same apartment complex as the 19 Entertainment executives for several years, Pacitti has also allegedly called Young her "manager" and "best friend" and credited Widynowski -- a former RCA Records publicist -- with "helping me get where I am today" in the credits of her 2006 debut album with Geffen Records, according to the tabloid.
"Itâ€™s a sad thing to have to tell a contestant they can't compete," Seacrest said, according to Fox News. "But we have to play by our rules."